Accessing Language Tools and Continued Education

Communication skills are important skills for all dentists in Canada. It is important to remember that Canada has two official languages: English and French. English is the most commonly spoken language in the majority of provinces and territories. Outside Quebec, 82% of Canadians speak English.

French is the main language spoken in Quebec, as well as in some areas in Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba. Also, there are French-speaking communities in most other parts of Canada. Quebec has a large minority of English-speaking residents Moreover, Canada has a large immigrant community meaning that your community of practice will likely be a multilingual and multicultural environment.

All official federal government services, publications and documents are available in both French and English.

Good English or French language skills, depending on the community in which you chose to practice, are very important.

In Canada, most newcomers who are permanent residents are eligible for free taxpayer-funded language classes. These language programs have many advantages:

  • Classes are led by qualified instructors
  • Classes are often available in a classroom with a small group of other adults or through distance education
  • Class times are flexible
  • Classes provide language skills, as well as information to help you settle into life in Canada
  • There are a number of different language classes available for different levels of need

Patient Communication & Treatment Planning

There are several resources to improve your general language skills, but it is also important to develop consistent and effective communication habits with your patients that reach beyond vocabulary. Use the following principles to guide your interaction with patients in a way that helps to build a rapport based on shared trust in your skill as a dentist. (British Columbia Dental Association, 2014; Nova Scotia Dental Association, 2014; Alberta Dental Association, 2014)

  • You are the dentist. Conduct a dental exam and diagnosis, not just a "check-up." Aim to be the focus of the recall appointment.
  • Always explain what you are doing and looking for during the dental exam in friendly, simple and straightforward terms to convey your actions and intent.
  • Be clear on the difference between urgent, necessary, preventive and optional care and any health consequences of having, deferring or declining care.
  • Be confident when explaining costs. Do not delegate this important conversation.
  • Provide your patients with supplementary material, either written summaries or other specific procedure resources, of all the options discussed, including cost ranges. This enables your patients to more clearly understand and consider their different options.
  • Do not hesitate to seek consultation if you have a concern that treatment may be beyond your skills or comfort level. When appropriate, refer the patient to another health care professional.
  • Address and offer recommendations to treat your patient's present oral health needs. Avoid treatment planning that is influenced by a patient's insurance plan's maximums—even if requested.
  • Be honest and consistent in your recommendations, fees and treatment costs for all patients.

Helpful Links and Resources

Canadian Dental Association: Patient Communication Learning Modules

The dentist/patient relationship is at the heart of effective oral health care and a successful practice. This section of the CDA website will provide you with information about building and enhancing that relationship.

Canadian Dental Association: Patient Communication Self-Assessment Tools

Find out how well you are communicating with patients at every touch point with these easy and insightful self-assessment tools.